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Indie MMORPG

Creator of the MMOs www.starcorsairs.com and www.golemizer.com

Author: Over00

Dealing with the Good, Bad and Ugly as an indie MMO dev

Posted by Over00 Friday June 26 2009 at 7:04PM
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Usual disclaimer first. This is strictly based on my experience, what I saw when working on my MMO project, Golemizer. I'm not interested to go into complex theory as first I don't have the background for that and second it will bore most of you and that's not the point.

Remember, all I write is based on a single person deciding to build an MMO. Some things might applied to small indie teams but here the team is 1 person.

The Ugly

I want this to end this post on a positive note so let's start this way.

When you go to school, you discover that kids are cruel. When you start driving, you discover road rage. When you start posting on the Interweb, you discover trolls and such. That's life, no big news here.

When you make a game and offer it for free, you first expect that people will be grateful for it even if it's not a groundbreaking game. Then you discover hate. Not real hate of course, there's much more worse. Just pure random Internet hate.

The moment you decide to stand up, someone will come and tell you to sit down (most of the time because they're afraid to stand up themselves). Building a game is no different. Just take a look at forums of any games and you'll find people "hating the devs". Note here that I'm not talking about someone complaining about a bug or something like that. No, I'm talking about someone that really pretends to hate the game.

Just because you spent countless hours on a project alone is not enough to protect you from this. You will receive hate mails telling you that the world would be better if you had not built that game. Even if these people didn't spent a dime on it.

That's "normal". Don't get upset by this. Well, at least don't play their game. You're better than that. There's no winner at the "hate game". Remember, you are "selling" a product (even if it's free) so you can't afford to try to beat them at this game. They don't care, you do. You're sure to be on the loosing side. Take the hit and move on. Release the pressure with people around you but don't get into a fight on the Internet. There's no point to it.

However, as weird as it may sounds, don't be deaf to these people. Instead, try to figure out where they are coming from. Some will use hate just because they're simply unable to express themselves any other way. That doesn't mean that you have to stop to breath for them. That just means that maybe there's something behind this hate. What provoked that? Maybe it comes from a specific aspect of the game that you already know you have to fix. Of course, some are just using hate just for the fun of it so you need to learn to ignore that part.

Use what might serve you and don't bother with what will lead you to stop working. If you stop because you received some hate comments in a single day, no one is a winner here (not even the hatefuls because they don't care anyway). You might feel like telling them "well, show me your game if you're so much better" but don't. There's really no point to this and you'll make a fool of yourself. Learn to get over it as unfair as it may seems. That's the only way to "win".

Remember, I'm not talking about criticism here. If you can't take criticism you're at the wrong place. I'm really talking about "hate". For those that mistaken hate with criticism, you can stop reading this, you probably don't care anyway.


The Bad

What could be Bad after the Ugly? Indifference. Once you learned to get over hate, you need to learn to deal with indifference which can be much more difficult.

Indifference from possible players, from the press, from the "indie" press... Yeah, even those on your side might not be there to help you. But it's ok. Sad but ok. You just need to remember that they are also running a business and that your project might not be the best choice for them to get their pay check they are working hard to get.

Again, maybe you spent thousands of hours on your project, to most people that won't matter. What matters is the end result and that can be frustrating. Maybe your graphics are not great but you spent a lot of time on some interesting systems. Maybe there's some rough stuff in you game but you did it all alone and most people don't know that. Again, the trick is to deal with it. Blaming everyone won't get you anywhere. As unfair as it might be, that's how it is.

The good here is that you can have a second shot. Just because you are ignored today doesn't mean you'll be ignored tomorrow. The moment you'll get some success be sure that you'll be surrounded by people that want a piece of the cake. Just be patient and keep believing in your project.

Keep trying to interest people about your project but don't be annoying about it. Don't be afraid to show the good things about it but don't brag about it. Remember, you're just one guy working on his "good idea". People have been there before you so don't pretend nothing better has been done before your time.

Use every opportunity you get. Never think "bah, that's not worth it". The chances are that you don't know yet what's good for you and your project. You will learn while doing it. So do every single trick you read somewhere (well, as much as you can handle, don't burn yourself either).

Write on a blog, send press release, participate in forums (remember to put links to your games there), dig for emails of people that might talk about your game, get feedback from your players, do SEO work on your website (you would be surprised...), spot cheap ads spots that target possible players (don't do random advertising, you need a load of money for that and the results won't follow, a lot of visitors doesn't mean a lot of players), do as much as possible.

Don't be afraid to talk to people already in the industry. A lot won't have much interest or time for you but those that do will be very helpful.

To sum it up, you will be ignored, deal with it and keep trying. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it.


The Good

There's nothing that feels better than receiving a good comment about your game. You might get the feeling that it doesn't happen often but learn to appreciate it. We often focus on the negative side of things (human nature) but train yourself to get motivation boost from small things.

What's special about MMOs is that development is never over (and if you're really passionate about your project, you'll feel like a lifetime won't be enough). With time, you'll meet amazing people that for some reason want to help you. Crazy like that! But be somehow be careful about that as well. Learn to spot overenthusiastic people. At first they might sound like they will do everything for you but that often don't last. There's nothing worse than putting your trust in someone that will let you down.

For example, people often ask me how they can become a GM in Golemizer. My answer is always the same: GMs are already GMs before receiving that powerful accounts with cool commands. Someone that comes out of nowhere telling you they will help you might not be a good bet. The people you can trust are those that have been already doing amazing work without the need to ask them in the first place. Maybe they sent you free graphics to use, maybe you often see them helping noobs, maybe they are putting a lot of time in their post on your forums.

I have been working on Golemizer for about 2 years and the game is available since about 1 year and so far I have never made a mistake about the people I trust. I must admit that it takes me a lot of time to trust someone. But once you found 1 or 2 person to trust, ask their opinions. They will provide you much input. You are probably not often online playing your own game because there is so much to do so these people might know much better than you who is playing your game. Make these people your allies. You won't survive without them and be very grateful for it.

Don't make the mistake of promoting players as "rewards". Some players will consider that being promoted as a GM is a reward for something done. It's not and shouldn't be otherwise players will start to play the game "become a GM Online". People can help you without being GMs. In fact, most people asking you if they can become GMs probably wouldn't know what to do exactly as one and that's the point: You shouldn't have to tell them, they know already.

Just make sure to not burn these persons. It still remains your project so you can't ask them to put the same energy as you in this project. Appreciate everything they are offering you and share what you can with them. Some will leave with time but don't take this the wrong way. They have lives and you are not controlling them so accept when they are moving on. That's always sad but there's not much to do about it. Remember that relationship should not only be based on a game project. You should try to keep in touch even after they have moved on.


That's pretty much what I had to say about the Good, Bad and Ugly of being a single person working on an MMO. Hope it can be of some use to someone. If not, well, at least it's been of some use to me. Each day I'm learning to deal with these things and I'd be a fool to pretend I have mastered every single aspect of this kind of project. Each day Golemizer is leading me to new grounds so I still have much to learn.

Have fun!

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